Often when someone hears what I do or the age group that I work with their response is: you must have so much patience.
I don’t. In fact, I’m probably the most anxious and impatient person I know. I can easily get riled in social situations, I hate being late for something, and encountering people who are mean or rude really upsets me.
So how do I keep peace in my heart? How do I look at a child who is screaming on the floor because I told him it was not ok to throw his work across the room?
It boils down to my ability to have understanding and empathy. It’s my ability to look at the “why” behind people’s choices.
When a child is throwing a “fit” or having extra emotions over something that, in my adult mind, is unreasonable I take a step back and reflect on what is going on. What happened before the situation occurred? Is there something else happening outside of school? Is the child hungry? Tired?
I run through every possibility of what else could be causing this “extreme” emotion or disruption to their normal personality and then, after processing it, I am able to react with empathy… understanding… love. This isn’t to say that my expectations have changed, or my limit that I set is going to be reversed because the child is upset, I’m just more able to respond to the child with the calmness and confidence that they deserve.
The other day a child in my classroom was extremely upset that I asked him to keep his work on the rug that designates where he is working. The limit was stated to the child as a reminder in a calm and collected tone. However, the child reacted as if I was pulling his hair out of his head. The reaction honestly shocked me, it seemed to have come out of no where. I stopped for a minute and just stared at him, at the boy who only five seconds before was happily throwing his work off the rug.
I thought about what I had said to him. It’s the limit in our room that work stays on our rug. It’s put in place to allow him uninterrupted work time as no one will touch his work. It protects the work so it doesn’t become lost or broken by friends walking by it. It helps other children know the work is unavailable. It is not a new limit in our classroom.
I thought about the child. Did he come late to school? Did he have snack yet? Did he sleep well last night?
Then I remembered: his mother was out of town. Something so small to the hustle and bustle of our adult life is drastic and devastating to our children.
I lowered myself to his level and held his hands. I told him I would be happy to talk to him when he was done crying. He took a big breath and stared at me with his big eyes full of tears. I repeated the limit and reminded him of the reason why rugs are so important. I helped him move his work back to the rug and brought him a tissue.
Hundreds of times during the day, at least in the toddler classrooms, this type of situation occurs. Toddlers have so many emotions and are just trying to navigate their way through them. Our job as teachers and parents are to be consistent, loving, and understanding when handling their emotions.
Keeping peace in your heart is not easy, but so worth it when building relationships with children, families, and people in general!